While return-to-work is a complex and difficult-to-manage process, often fraught with opportunities for error and financial leakage, the benefits of a well-run program are very real — namely, the dramatic cost reductions that come from shortening the duration of open claims and avoiding the need to replace injured employees.
In fact, with the average cost for replacing employees climbing to at least 21 percent of salary and beyond, according to a Center for American Progress study, returning injured employees to work is one of the most cost effective measures an employer can take.
The cost benefits can be further magnified for those employers who automate the entire return-to-work process with integrated risk management technology — reducing the time it takes to complete return-to-work tasks from weeks and months, to hours and days.
What Drives Worker Injury Costs for Employers?
Once an accident occurs, employers are responsible for five major cost drivers:
- Medical Benefits
- Indemnity Benefits
- Permanent Partial Disability
- Indirect Costs
Return-to-Work Technology: Functionality that Pays
Integrated risk management technology can address and reduce the impact of these cost drivers, however, by automating the entire return-to-work process from end to end — allowing users to capture, share and analyze a wide range of real-time information in order to completely manage the process of getting an employee through transitional or light duty and back to full duty in the most efficient manner possible.
The functionality of integrated risk management technology that supports such return-to-work efficiency includes:
- Return-to-Work Strategy/Plan Setup: A Return-to-Work plan is a collaborative strategy comprised of the employee, supervisor, treating health professional, claim adjuster and Return-to-Work coordinator. The plan outlines what needs to happen and when it will happen in order to help the injured or ill worker return to full duty. It also tracks the following components:
- Goal(s) to return the worker to duties that are suitable and available;
- Actions and activities required to achieve the goal(s);
- Timeframes for achieving goal(s);
- Healthcare needs, such as medical appointments.
- Electronic Form Distribution and Status Tracking: Simplify your ability to stay on top of communication with electronic forms and workflows. Send and receive the appropriate documents out to employees, doctors and supervisors. Track the flow of information to reflect the most current status. A Return-to-Work technology solution automates the entire electronic and data flow process, including electronic signature capability and the ability to collect coded data through email and online portals.
- Transitional Assignment Management: Getting an employee back to work as soon as possible typically requires transitional or temporary job assignments. Matching restrictions with job duties is essential for employees to perform meaningful work within their capabilities. A Return-to-Work technology system can manage the entire job assignment process, including matching restrictions with the right light duty job assignment and issuing electronic job offers.
- Savings and ROI Tracking Metrics: Metrics can prove the effectiveness of case management and highlight the savings achieved by returning employees to work more efficiently and quickly. An integrated savings calculator also allows you to quantify savings in direct costs. A truly robust Return-to-Work system can even calculate the individual case savings based on real-time benchmarks from the massive disability guideline databases available (e.g., Reed Disability Guidelines/MDGuidelines).
Turn a Complex Web of Moving Parts into a Well-Oiled Machine
A well-designed and well-managed return-to-work program results in nothing but benefits, from dramatic cost savings to better healing experiences for one’s valuable employees. Until now, having an efficiently managed return-to-work program has been extremely difficult because of the complex web of moving parts. But a return-to-work program combined with a comprehensive technology system to support it coordinates all the moving parts into one well-oiled machine.